Pet Advice and Tips

Problem Ears and Skin Allergies

There is usually an underlying reason for these and I’d love to share with you what I know to help you get these pesky problems under control!

The majority of recurrent ear infections in dogs are actually due to an underlying allergy that causes inflammation and redness of the ear canal. Now why is this causing an infection? What happens when the ear canal gets red and inflamed is that it creates a hot and humid environment which is perfect for growing those horrible bacteria and yeast! So you can medicate the ear and get rid of the infection, however if you don’t get rid of the inflammation then that lovely moist environment is still present and those pesky bugs will come right back.

So how do you get rid of the inflammation? I mentioned that the major cause is an underlying allergy, now the three major categories are food, environmental and parasites.

The most common allergy is environmental, which unfortunately can be difficult to figure out, so we start with food and parasites.


“But my dog is on a good food diet and I’ve tried loads of different foods before and its never made any difference so it can’t be that?”

Here’s the key to food – in order to rule out food as being the problem you must do a MINIMUM 8 week trial, you are not even able to feed a snack or medication that contains anything else in it. So unless you’ve done this then you can’t rule out food as being the problem. The next key is that your food trial has to be made up of certain foods. There are two options here, either you can feed a prescription diet designed specifically for dogs with food allergy’s (for example Hill’s z/d or Royal Canin Anallergenic) OR you can feed a home cooked diet, however this needs to be designed for you by a canine nutritionist or dermatologist as you will need to feed a novel protein (for example venison or possum, something your dog would never have had previously) and it must still be a balanced diet for your pooch.


Those annoying fleas! Yes, fleas can cause ear problems! And again its because some dogs have mild allergies to fleas and this causes the body to have inflammation, and remember those ear canals provide the perfect cave environment once warm and moist. The thing with fleas is that you don’t have to find them to be a problem. All that needs to happen is one flea jumps on and bites your pooch and then you get an inflammatory response throughout the body. So its really important to also do a flea treatment trial.

Key points for this are: Use a great flea product – my recommendation is Comfortis, its one of the best on the market for animals with flea specific allergies.
ALL of the animals in the household MUST be treated
Treat the environment as well (flea bomb etc)

The other parasite that can cause problems is ear mites! Now this can generally be easily treated by medication from your vet.


As mentioned earlier this is the trickier allergy to fix or eliminate, so often a lot of dogs end up on life time medications. There is a process called Intradermal Skin Testing that is available in NZ with the specialist dermatologists and certainly this may be a way to go with your dog to avoid long term harmful effects of medications.


What shampoo is best? Dogs with skin problems tend to have a mixed environment of yeast and bacteria on their skin. If your dog has a musty smell its almost certain that there is yeast around. So some of the best shampoos are Malaseb or Sebazole. The trick with using these shampoos is to thoroughly wash your dog and leave on for TEN minutes, then wash off. With really bad skin I would recommend twice a week until the skin condition has resolved. Then you may only need to do monthly or even less just to keep things at bay


So your dog still has to be on medications despite going through all of the above. Steroids are still the mainstay treatment of a lot of skin cases but unfortunately the long term effects of these are not great. So finding an alternative would be much more beneficial. And you often find that once they are on a great diet and omega supplements that the medication they need is less.

Apoquel is a drug you may or may not have heard of, but it’s a fabulous alternative to steroid treatment. The only downside at the moment is that the cost is far far greater. But if you can afford it then this is definitely the current recommendation for skin allergies



Omega oils are fantastic for dogs with skin problems! Giving these on a daily basis will help not only reduce some of the inflammation but help with healthy skin and coat. The recommendation is 1000mg of fish oil per 2.5-5kg of body weight. Now this probably sounds like a lot, however at this higher rate it has been shown to be of benefit.

Ear Medication

If your pet still has ongoing ear issues despite all of the above there are some topical treatments that can be use on an ongoing treatment that can alleviate inflammation – these are often made up of ear cleaner and a steroid by your vet.
Skin allergies and ongoing ear issues are something that can be managed, but the KEY to these are consistency and persistence. Don’t do a few weeks of treatment and then stop, these are long term cases and you need a management plan, not a quick fix. Then you can have a happy, not itchy dog (and get some sleep at night!)


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